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Buffalo Public Schools welcome back 31,000 students for full, in-person learning

Masks are required for everyone inside of BPS buildings whether they are vaccinated or not.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — It was back to class for tens of thousands of Buffalo Public School students Wednesday morning.

Everyone is required to wear a mask inside school buildings regardless of vaccination status. Masks can be taken off outside if activities are designed to keeps kids socially distanced.

District guidance says physical education classes should be outside, weather permitting, but if students are inside, they will have to wear masks. Teachers will allow for mask breaks with proper distance between students.

All athletic programs normally in place will re-launch on September 8, but the BPS after-school program is on hold until further notice. High school internships, work assignments, and work release programs will also resume September 8.

The district is starting the school year with a laptop computer problem — only about 7,000 of 15,000 laptops given to students last year have been returned to be updated and sanitized. Some students might have to wait until October to get a functional device.

About 400 students from the Buffalo School of Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management are among those headed back to class. 

The new school building opened at 75 West Huron in downtown Buffalo in January 2020, only to close two months later because of the pandemic. Students only used a portion of the building last year, but this year they will use the whole school.

School officials say not only is there a need for skilled workers in the food and hospitality industry, but there's also a growing interest among students.

"The reason we exist is because Emerson on Chippewa did so well. They had about 125 students, and because they had such a large application pool, they invited us to do the same," said Principal Katie Schuta. 

The restaurant and kitchens will be open this month, and students will be making lunch for all of the students this year.

Students at the school still have to learn all the basic subjects, like math, English, and science, but their electives involve the culinary arts, hospitality management, and sports marketing. Those skills can translate into a paying job after high school.

"All of the skills that you learn — problem solving, working with a diverse group of people, working with the public, critical thinking — you learn all of those skill so that no matter what job you go into, you're going to be successful," Schuta said. "You're helping students not only gain the knowledge you need to graduate high school but be successful in any job you get."

There's also a clothing retail store run by students, and there will be an online store too.

"When students have a passion for something or they have a reason to come to high school, they're the most successful. Our attendance is up, and our graduation rate is up because they want to be here," Schuta said.